How do you explain it?

Every time I try to explain what it is like to have D and what it takes to deal with it on a daily basis I get that deer in the headlights look. The thing is I can understand that response. As hard as it can be to explain it is even harder to understand, Even if the person is genuinely interested. The explanation can get too long and involved. So I came up with this little analogy to try out on my next encounter. See what you think. Do you have one of your own?

Imagine your body is a highly sophisticated machine consisting of hundreds of specialized interdependent systems. These systems include computers, drives, sensory, conversion and regulating systems to name just a few. All of the systems require a specialized fuel which is created by simply loading the tank with any digestible organic material you wish to use. This fuel must be delivered at a constant and specific level to assure proper function and maintenance. Too little and systems begin to misfire and shut down. Too much and they will also begin to physically break down. Fortunately one of the on board systems automatically takes care of the fuel ratio no matter the quality of the material used.

What happens when the system that regulates this fuel malfunctions or quits working altogether? Somehow you must manually regulate the ratio yourself. This means you must anticipate both the conversion rate and rate of use. The quantity, timing and quality of the raw material becomes critical in calculating these rates. Constant monitoring is required to ensure proper, safe function and to avoid permanent damage. Once this condition occurs it becomes a 24/7, 365 endeavor.

Just as each body is different so is the management of this condition. Also, many things can affect the stability of the fuel ratio, including environment, stress and illness. Therefore, there are no one size fits all simple answers for management. What works for one person may not work for another. Similarly, what works today may not work the same tomorrow. Rarely, if ever, is this condition reversible.

I tell people it's balancing food and drugs and exercise

Imagine controlling your own blood pressure or heart rate on manual every moment of every day. It needs to fluctuate throughout the day to compensate for exercise, stress, sleep, and so on, but if it gets too high or too low you pass out or other bad things happen. That's exactly what those of us with Type 1 are doing with our blood sugar every moment of every day.

I like your machine analogy, but it's pretty complex -- like diabetes!

Sometimes I use the baby analogy: having diabetes is kind of like having a small baby that will never, ever grow up. You have to feed her, change her, keep her safe and comfortable, carry her around with you all day every day, monitor her well-being 24/7 -- being diabetic means that some part of your brain has to be focused on diabetes every night and day for the rest of your life. You can't just put her on a shelf and ignore her. You can't just give her away. She's yours to care for, forever, or dire things will happen.

I know exactly what you mean when you say you get the deer in the headlights. I think people who know I have diabetes are just being nice when they ask hows it going. The reality is they probably don’t want to hear all the details but I like to talk about it sometimes so I can rattle on a bit.

I like the machine analogy as well as the baby. Just this week on a particular day, I had done everything right and could not get my numbers under 200. I increased my basal carb ratio for the next meal and finally brought my bg down. Why on that day did my ratio change? I have no idea!

I don't.

I can completely understand the deer in the headlight look. It's not that they are not smart enough, or concerned enough, or whatever enough, to understand. It's not that I don't feel it's a good thing to do, it's just impossible to do.

It's like trying to explain what it's like to live in a 3 dimensional world to your own shadow.

Symplistic me :) ...managing my diabetes takes 24/7/365 ...has been so for the past 29 years .

I like this analogy. I might just start to use it myself. Something that just about everyone can relate to. :)

Of all the suggestions here, I think I like this one the best (adding on some of Jen's factors that could affect it: exercise, sleep, etc). Basically, it comes down to regulating what your body can't do anymore, by predicting what will happen and figuring out how to counteract it.

Pretty much, and absolutely.

I can explain bits and pieces, like,

"It's an insulin pump."


"I'm ordering the roasted chicken, what about you?"

If the happen to be be people I hang out with regularly, information in those small bits and pieces like that eventuall add up after awhile. My friends have a pretty good idea of what I'm doing and why I'm doing it, without the frustration of a long dran out explanation.

Sun spots !!!

Thanks to everyone for your response. I've been pondering this concept for a while and wanted to "test market" it here where the real issues are already understood. It really was intended to be more of a concept to get across than a script. My motivation is to find ways to make the complex and varying issues around D into something more easy for people to get there arms around. Something that will paint a vivid, even poingent, picture that will stick and cause them to think about it. I think that anything we can each do in our daily lives to bring more understanding and awareness to D is a good thing for all. This is not for everyone, but for me it is focus I feel compelled to follow. Not sure what will come of it, but I really want to walk away from these random encounters knowing I have planted a seed and not just haaving scratched the dirt.

I show them my video :)